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Mystery Novels

  • What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.

  • I had an interest in death from an early age. It fascinated me. When I heard 'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,' I thought, 'Did he fall or was he pushed?'

  • Detective fiction ... confirms our belief, despite some evidence to the contrary, that we live in a rational, comprehensible and moral universe.

  • [On Dashiell Hammett:] ... he is so hard-boiled you could roll him on the White House lawn.

  • There certainly does seem a possibility that the detective-story will some time come to an end, simply because the public will have learnt all the tricks.

  • ... make no mistake about it, the detective-story is part of the literature of escape, and not of expression.

  • Do you solemnly swear never to conceal a vital clue from the reader? Do you promise to observe seemly moderation in the use of gangs, conspiracies, Super Criminals and Lunatics and utterly and forever to forswear Mysterious Poisons unknown to science? Will you honor the King's English? ... If you fail to keep your promise, may other writers steal your plots and your pages swarm with misprints.

    • Dorothy L. Sayers,
    • "The Oath of Initiation Into the Detection Club of London," in Elaine Budd, Thirteen Mistresses of Murder ()
  • Ah, there's nothing like tea in the afternoon. When the British Empire collapses, historians will find that it had made but two invaluable contributions to civilization — this tea ritual and the detective novel.

  • ... my crime books are actually novels and are written as such. One might even say that each one is really two novels, one of which is the story I tell the reader, and the other the buried story I know and let slip now and then into a clue to whet the reader's interest.

  • The mystery story is two stories in one: the story of what happened and the story of what appeared to happen.

  • In almost every thriller, a point is reached when someone, usually calling from a phone booth, telephones with a vital piece of information, which he cannot divulge by phone. By the time the hero arrives at the place where they had arranged to meet, the caller is dead, or too near death to tell. There is never an explanation for the reluctance of the caller to impart his message in the first place.

  • After all, what is the modern detective story but an extension of the mediaeval morality play?

    • Catherine Aird,
    • "The Devout Benefit of Clergy," in Dilyn Winn, Murder Ink ()
  • Police work is two parts routine, one part common sense and one part luck.

  • ... between no widely divergent groups — Socialists and Fascists, liberals and conservatives, moderns and classicists — does the gulf yawn as wide as the one dividing those who do read and those who don't read mystery novels.

  • When I am thickening my plots, I like to think 'What if ... What if ... ' Thus my imagination can move from the likely, which everyone can think of, to the unlikely-but-possible, my preferred plot.

  • Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true. Of course people read them for fun ... But underneath they feed a hunger for justice ... you offer to divert them, and you show them by stealth the orderly world in which we should all try to be living.

    • Dorothy L. Sayers,
    • in Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations ()